Delay OK on permit idea

For the second time in as many months, the state Adirondack Park Agency postponed action on a controversial proposal that would streamline the review process for certain kinds of clear-cutting on private lands in the park.

The agency made a reasonable decision in delaying any action. The issue is a complicated one that has generated intense debate among those inside – and even some outside – the Blue Line.

The proposed general permit, called “Silvicultural Treatments for Sustainable Forestry in the Adirondack Park,” was slated to come before the APA board Thursday for a decision, but it was pulled from the agenda Wednesday by agency Chairwoman Lani Ulrich. A spokesman for the agency said Ulrich wanted to give the board more time for deliberation because it is a complicated issue.

Under current rules, any clear-cut of more than 25 acres requires an APA permit and must go through a stringent and lengthy review process that includes a final vote by the agency Board of Commissioners. The agency has only issued three such permits in the last 20 years.

APA officials say the rules have caused landowners and forest managers to skirt agency jurisdiction by performing multiple clear cuts of less than 25 acres.

The proposed general permit would expedite the review process for certain kinds of clear-cutting on lots of 25 acres or more, but only for landowners involved in forestry certification programs like those run by two nonprofit groups, the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The general permit would shorten the time frame for approval and allow agency staff to issue permits without a vote by the APA board.

Since it was proposed in November, the general permit has sparked a heated debate among the Park’s stakeholders. Forestry industry experts and local government leaders have generally supported the plan, but it has drawn the ire of environmentalists.

The APA also delayed action on the proposal in January after receiving more than 200 comment letters on it, most opposed to the plan. The agency then made some revisions to the general permit, but it still drew a big backlash from green groups.

While people complain about governments moving slowly, they also get upset when governments pass rules before the public can understand it.

For example, consider the state’s passage of new restrictions on gun owners.

Sheriffs across the state – including in Fulton and Montgomery counties – have noted parts of the New York SAFE Act are too broad, limiting and difficult for gunowners. Legislators, including Assemblyman Marc Butler, have a problem with the legislation, which was quickly passed and discussed little before approval. At least one Fulton County man has gone so far as to sue Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the legislation.

The APA does not want to invite similar public reaction. Taking time to change the rules is acceptable, especially when some are concerned the changes may hurt the park.